What does Luke 17:16 mean?
ESV: and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.
NIV: He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him--and he was a Samaritan.
NASB: and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.
CSB: He fell facedown at his feet, thanking him. And he was a Samaritan.
NLT: He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.
KJV: And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
NKJV: and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.
Verse Commentary:
Leprosy is a tragic condition. The word often translated "leprosy" in Scripture actually refers to a wide variety of skin ailments. Someone who suspects they might have leprosy is required to find a Jewish priest to get the diagnosis confirmed. They then must wear ripped clothing and unkempt hair as if they are in mourning. They aren't allowed to live in cities, associate with clean people—including their family—or worship at the temple (Leviticus 13).

Separating this man further is the fact that he is a Samaritan. He is a descendant of the Jews of northern Israel and other nationalities the Assyrians settled into the area (2 Kings 17). Samaritan religion was a mix of Judaism and paganism, including the false religion created by Jeroboam when he split the ten tribes away from the southern kingdom of Judah (1 Kings 12). This man lives near the border between Galilee and Samaria, so he has regular contact with Jews who despise Samaritans (John 4:9; 8:48). And yet, he has community with nine other lepers, presumably all Jewish (Luke 17:12).

When Jesus enters the village, the group of lepers recognize Him, abandon their required cry of "Unclean, unclean," and shout out, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." Jesus tells them to go to the priests. A leper will only go to the priest if he believes he is healed. This man is a Samaritan, but a Jewish priest can declare him clean again: the priest can judge the man suitable to return to his life. So, with the nine Jews, he immediately heads out (Luke 17:13–14).

As they go, their skin is healed. The other nine continue on their way. The Samaritan realizes he has met someone greater than any priest. He has met a teacher who displays the power of God. He turns around in thanksgiving and praise (Luke 17:15). Then, he does the unthinkable: he approaches Jesus. He isn't supposed to be near anyone until the priest declares him clean and he performs the week-long ceremony (Leviticus 14:1–32). But praise supersedes protocol.

Jesus declares for the benefit of the crowd, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" (Luke 17:17–18). Then He recognizes the Samaritan's faith, suggesting the man is spiritually healed as well as physically (Luke 17:19).

Healing has come to a Samaritan—a man the Jews find repulsive because of his genealogy and his religion. And yet he is the only one to turn back and recognize God's work in his life.
Verse Context:
Luke 17:11–19 begins a series of comparisons. Here, a thankful Samaritan contrasts with others who seem less expressive. Next, Jesus compares false messiahs to His own second coming and the negligence of people in the end times with the disciples who look for His coming (Luke 17:20–37). In chapter 18, the comparisons continue: a persistent widow and a corrupt judge (Luke 18:1–8), a proud Pharisee and a repentant tax collector (Luke 18:9–14), a trusting child and a ruler attached to his wealth (Luke 18:15–30).
Chapter Summary:
In his gospel, Luke has often arranged events by theme rather than by strict time order. That seems likely here with a series of teachings about living as Christ followers and ambassadors of God. Christians ought to be careful not to poison the faith of others. Faith is powerful. God's servants should not demand extravagant treatment in return. After healing ten lepers—only one of whom offers thanks—Jesus discusses the state of the world at His future second coming.
Chapter Context:
Luke 17 continues Jesus' teaching about how to live as citizens and ambassadors of the kingdom of God. Luke 15 describes God's love for the lost. Chapter 16 teaches earthly blessings are far inferior to heavenly rewards. Here, He exhorts His followers to lead well, serve humbly, give thanks, and watch for His second coming. In Luke 18, Jesus gives a series of comparisons to show how we are to approach God—as He approaches Jerusalem and the cross.
Book Summary:
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
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